Dre Campbell Farm
Rabbit Farming (Cuniculture): Raising Rabbits for Meat

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Rabbit Farming (Cuniculture): Raising Rabbits for Meat

If you’re interested in the idea of commercial rabbit farming or cuniculture, then we’re here to help you out.

For many people, rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are small, quiet, docile pets they give to their children to teach them responsibility.

However, for many others, they are an invaluable food source that’s relatively easy to raise and breed.

It’s also sustainable enough that once a method is set in place, it’s not likely to fail. But first, you need to know what you’re doing.

Benefits

They are very low maintenance. They don’t need a ton of space to be happy, they’re very quiet and won’t make a lot of noise, and they can be surprisingly charming.

Even if you get into the process of rabbit raising intending to gain a self-sustaining food source, you might be surprised at how attached you become to some bunnies.

Some farmers even enter them into contests. They’re a great first-time pet for children because of their easy care and lack of need for constant attention.

Females produce fairly large litters at a time and can breed a few times a year.

They also grow extremely quickly at little cost and their meat is very tasty and nutritious without any religious taboos attached to it. And along with the meat, you can also use their manure for excellent fertilizer.

Honestly, if you can handle the idea of raising them for meat, they’re a very inexpensive investment to get started.

Breeds

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing what breeds to focus on. There are a ton of different options.

  • Continental giant
  • Dark Grays
  • Netherland dwarf
  • Fox
  • Lionhead
  • Dutch
  • Mini Rex
  • New Zealand’s (both white and black varieties)
  • New Zealand Red
  • Californian
  • Belgium white
  • Flemish giant
  • English lop
  • Chinchilla
  • Holland lop
  • Beveren
  • American fuzzy
  • And many more rabbit breeds.

These are all popular rabbit breeds for their productivity and relative ease in raising. The Polish are also popular, though they’re mainly used for show purposes or as domestic rabbits.

The only problem you’re likely to run into once you’ve made your decision is where to find that particular type.

Some are easier to find in certain regions than others, so if you’re dead set on a certain kind, be prepared to spend a little extra money getting them here.

Production

You have a couple of methods available to you.

There is the Deep Litter Method, which is best suited for smaller populations. It requires a concrete floor and a 4-5 inch deep litter husk lined with straw, hay, or wood shavings.

This method will produce and support up to 30 bunnies comfortably, with the two sexes being separated from one another.

Keep in mind though that with the deep litter method, you have a higher chance of disease spreading through the family.

The second method is the Cage Method, which, just as it sounds, keeps them in cages versus the free-roaming hutch, and they are contained separately.

This is optimal for raising larger numbers and is often used commercially.

1. Feeding

Rabbit rearing is inexpensive when it comes to feeding. The type of food will have to vary depending on their age and breed.

Adults require 17-18% crude protein in their diet, 14% fiber, 7% minerals, and a whopping 2700 calories of metabolic energy.

This can all be found in green, leafy veggies such as spinach, kale, carrot (duh), muller, parsnip, cucumber, green grass (an excellent excuse to let them run around and play outside), and vegetable waste.

Make sure they have a generous and clean source of fresh water and you’ll be good to go. They’re not only inexpensive to acquire and keep, but they’re easy to feed as well.

2. Breeding

Time to let bunnies do what bunnies do best — make more bunnies.

At around 5-6 months, they become mature enough for reproduction. However, it isn’t recommended to put them together until the males at least have reached one year old to ensure quality stock.

This may go without saying, but if you have a sick one, don’t breed it. Extra special care must be taken to those intended for breeding and once pregnant, it will gestate for anywhere from 28-31 days.

The females, called does, will deliver anywhere from 2-8 kids at a time.

3. The Best Rabbits for Meat

If you’re into it strictly for meat, then you have several options to choose from.

You’ll want a breed that is on the larger side and produces lean, muscular meat, and gives birth to larger litters.

With this in mind, the New Zealands, Californians, and Champagne d’Argents are your preferred choices, particularly if you’re just getting started.

They’re very muscular and will be ready to butcher at about eight weeks old.

Many doctors recommend white meat over others due to its lean nature, making it good for people with heart conditions.

It has a similar texture and taste to chicken, so it’s relatively easy to prepare as well.

4. Killing Methods

This is the big one, the one every first-timer probably dreads.

If you’ve ever had rabbit meat, how did it taste? Was it sweet and tender, sort of like chicken?

Well, if it was, then you can rest easy. That animal was killed peacefully and humanely, without its instinctive fear response stiffening up its muscles with adrenaline beforehand.

There are three potential ways of killing them, but we generally recommend the first one:

The Broomstick:

Make sure it is placed on the ground in front of its favorite treat to distract it and make it happy. Next, place a broomstick handle across its neck.

Next, as you step on the other side of the handle to hold it in place, simultaneously grab the hind legs and essentially stand up straight as you’re pulling upwards at a ninety-degree angle.

This will create a sort of stretching, give sensation as you feel the bones of the neck detach.

It will enter its death throes, but don’t misunderstand; this only means that the brain has been instantly cut off from the body, preventing all essential functions.

This is our favorite method because the rabbit will only feel maybe a half-second of it, if anything. It won’t have time to even feel afraid.

The Arterial Bleed:

This one isn’t highly recommended on the basis that it doesn’t always kill immediately.

Still, if you do it right, the Coney shouldn’t feel anything more than a sudden, heavy drowsy sensation before essentially going to sleep.

As before, place it in front of a treat to distract it. Slice quickly through the jugular veins.

Within a minute, it will be dead and ready for hanging and draining.

Fatal Blow:

This one is only recommended for those who know precisely what they’re doing. It’s humane, like the other three, but it has to be done so carefully and correctly so as not to cause the animal any suffering.

Hold the Coney by its hind feet so the ears form a perfect V shape. Strike sharply and fast directly behind the V shape on the back of the head.

If done correctly, this should have the same effect as the broomstick method.

Whatever your killing method, you can take comfort in the fact that they die far more humanely than in the wild. There they’re often still alive and terrified as they’re torn apart by predators.

Also, whatever method you choose, ensure that the blood is properly drained out before it is eaten.

Utilizing Rabbit Manure

This stuff is a great organic fertilizer — highly rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — the essential building blocks of any successful garden.

It is also a dry and odorless substance, so it’s easy to collect and distribute without a huge mess.

The pellets will collect together in the bottom of the hutch, so gathering them is a breeze. Plus, you’ll get a ton of them from your rabbit farm. They are great little poopers.

Takeaway

Ultimately, with the great demand for commercial meat, raising rabbits is an increasingly promising opportunity.

Aside from the relative ease in caring for them, their meat is extremely nutritious and quite tasty.

If you’re looking to start your own business, the white meat market might be the ticket for you.

Image via commons.wikimedia

Sasha Brown

1 comment

  • My family raised rabbits for meat when we lived in Mexico. We grew up very poor so it was nice having good food for cheap.




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